On Thursday afternoon, Beyoncé unveiled the cover for Renaissance, her newest album, and many fans immediately took to social media that it looks a lot like a famed painting from the 19th century.
The cover, which was shot by Carlijn Jacobs, features a scantily clad Beyoncé atop a silvery horse. It bears more than a few similarities to John Collier’s 1880/98 painting Lady Godiva, which depicts a nude woman who figures prominently in Anglo-Saxon lore.
Listen beautiful relax classics on our Youtube channel.
As legend has it, Lady Godiva rode a horse in the buff sometime during the 11th century as a protest against plans from her husband Leofric to impose a harsh tax on the citizens of Coventry, England. Leofric said he would call it off if she appeared in town naked and on horseback, and she took him up on this dare. (She is believed to have told all the citizens to stay home so she could retain her dignity, and all but one, a man now known as Peeping Tom, did, although this part is thought to be apocryphal.)
The painting by Collier, an artist associated with the Pre-Raphaelite movement, is currently held by the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum in Coventry, which owns a collection of works that depict Lady Godiva.
Beyoncé herself didn’t mention Lady Godiva or the Collier painting when she announced the album cover, though her caption for it on Instagram seemed to echo some of the themes of the Anglo-Saxon legend.
“My intention was to create a safe place, a place without judgment,” Beyoncé said of her album. “A place to be free of perfectionism and overthinking. A place to scream, release, feel freedom. It was a beautiful journey of exploration.”
The comparison to Collier’s painting was made by various fan accounts on Twitter, some of which also linked the Renaissance cover to the time in 1977 when Bianca Jagger arrived at New York’s famed Studio 54 club on horseback.
ARTnews has reached out to a representative for Jacobs for comment on the possible Collier reference.
In prior projects, Beyoncé has made many art-historical references. She has appeared with her husband, the rapper Jay-Z, near masterpieces in the Louvre and a rarely seen Jean-Michel Basquiat painting, and she has featured works by David Hammons, Richard Prince, Derrick Adams, Conrad Egyir, Robert Pruitt, and more in her music videos. She has even involved artists in her various initiatives, bringing on photographers like Awol Erizku and Tyler Mitchell to take her portrait.
So far, it remains to be seen whether Renaissance will make any more allusions to art history—the first single, “BREAK MY SOUL,” doesn’t have any obvious ones. The album’s title, however, seems to suggest there could be more still to come. Fans will find out for sure when the album drops on July 29.